Encouraging Independent Learning

As a homeschooling family we have a pretty wide range of ways we homeschool.  I wouldn’t call us “traditional schoolers” yet I wouldn’t call us complete “unschoolers” either.

Depending on the child we incorporate a variety of learning methods in our home.  We drill words, we go on nature walks, we read together, watch educational videos, we have a huge variety of school books to do lessons from, we cook, we go on field trips, we do service projects.  We learn in just about every way possible!

In addition to what I set out to teach or plan for I also try to encourage independent learning. This is especially great for my older kids who are maybe a little more adventurous and curious about subjects we might not be learning about at that particular time.

Typically when I see that my children have started reading up on a particular subject I ask them if they’d like more resources and more learning opportunities on the subject.  If they are truly interested and want to learn more I try my hardest to make sure they have a variety of ways to learn about whatever has caught their interest.

Recently my 7th grader Savannah  found a book on space.  She avidly started reading about it and came to me wanting to know more.  It wasn’t something I was prepared to teach on (or had in my plans for the next several months) but I hated to lose that enthusiasm that she had.


  • We pulled out all the books we had about space.  Some were very basic and still others were more indepth.  She has them available to her and can read whichever she wants to.
  • I showed her that we had a few DVDs on the subject and set them aside.  I told her she could watch them whenever (if ever!) that she wanted.
  • I did a little research myself and told her a few interesting facts about the planets.  I challenged her to find some interesting facts that were equally as interesting or that she thought I wouldn’t know.
  • I encouraged her to go outside and look up!  What better observation ground do we have than our own backyard!
  • I gave her notebooks to record her observations, to draw pictures or to write stories or facts about space.
  • We got on the internet and looked up amazing pictures of space.
  • We looked to see if there were any experiments we could do that would tie together all that she was learning.

We thought outside the box and I left it up to her to decide how much or how little she learned.  Turns out she loved studying about the subject she was truly interested in.  She couldn’t get enough and probably learned far more about the planets and our solar system than if I had set out to teach her with formal plans in mind.

I think so many people place such an emphasis on what we are trying to teach that sometimes we forget to see what our children want to learn.

Sometimes our children only need us to supply them with the means to learn and they turn out to be the best teachers.

What are some of your best strategies for encouraging independent learning?

While not observing the stars in the dark skies above her backyard Michelle can be found writing at her blog Pass The Flu Bug Please.  Stop by and do some gazing with her and her family!

Angie Kauffman
Angie, a domestically challenged nerd and mom of three very fun kids, is the founder of Real Life at Home.  Angie also listens to music every chance she gets, writes eBookspodcastsloves Pinterestdocuments the little moments in life on Instagram, and occasionally sleeps.


  1. says

    We just started homeschooling this year, but I’ve already found this to be true with my 6 year old. She has been on a classical music kick for weeks now, learning about different instruments and listening to different pieces of music to see if she can pick out which instruments she’s hearing. I would probably not have gone into the level of detail she is, had I been just teaching this — it’s her passion for the subject that is making the difference.

  2. Jeff Schmitz says

    Great approach! So true – its about learning, not teaching.

    One book you may look into for her is called Moon Shot, a wonderful book about the race to the moon – not necessarily geared towards kids, so you may want to read with her.



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